Maintaining healthy skin not only keeps you looking young, it is also crucial to preventing dangerous skin conditions that can arise as you age. Skin cancer is the most frequently occurring form of cancer in the country, and can affect people of all ages, races and skin types. Because skin cancer is so common, it often goes undetected, which is why patients must take an active role in keeping their skin healthy. Taking proper preventative measures against skin cancer is a must, and patients with any abnormal growths should seek treatment immediately. Dr. Peter T. Hetzler specializes in melanoma removal while also offering a complete range of skin treatments to improve the overall vitality of your skin.
- What is melanoma?
- Who is at risk for melanoma?
- How is melanoma treated?
- What other types of skin cancer should I know about?
- What can I do to protect myself?
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the rarest and most serious form of skin cancer. It usually appears as a black or brown asymmetrical spot on the neck, back or face, but can occur anywhere on the body and take many forms. Although it is potentially deadly, it has an excellent prognosis if detected and removed promptly. If left untreated, however, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body and prove fatal.
Who Is at Risk for Melanoma?
Anyone is potentially at risk for melanoma, but there are certain factors that increase a person’s vulnerability to the cancer. You may be more at risk of developing melanoma if you:
- Have fair skin, light eyes, or many freckles
- Were often severely sunburned as a child
- Have a family history of melanoma
- Have had melanoma in the past
- Have any abnormal-looking moles or moles that have changed in appearance
- Have more than 50 moles
- Spend a lot of time in the sun or use tanning beds
If any of these risk factors apply to you, be sure to pay close attention to your skin and note any variations, such as a mole changing in shape, color, size or texture.
How Is Melanoma Treated?
If you notice an abnormal growth, contact a dermatologist or plastic surgeon immediately to have it examined and removed. Treatment involves surgically removing the cancerous growth and the surrounding areas of healthy skin, known as the margins. The size of the margins will vary depending on how advanced the melanoma is. Fortunately, recent advances in melanoma treatment allow the margins to be much smaller, leaving less scarring. This procedure can be done on an out-patient basis with local anesthesia, and the risks of this kind of surgery are very low. Dr. Peter Hetzler treats melanoma at all stages; contact the doctor today for more treatment information.
What Other Types of Skin Cancer Should I Know About?
While melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, other types should be treated with just as much gravity, and be removed promptly.
Basal cell carcinoma
This is the most common type of skin cancer. It is caused by excessive sun exposure, and usually appears as a red patch, a pearly, translucent growth, a crusty sore that won’t heal, or an inexplicable scar on the face, ears, back, scalp or upper body. If detected early, basal cell carcinoma can usually be removed with a relatively minor surgical procedure. If ignored, however, it can continue to spread and cause significant damage.
Squamous cell carcinoma
The second most common form of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Usually caused by excessive sun exposure, these tumors can appear on the lips, face, neck, hands, back, scalp, or anywhere else exposed to the sun. Fortunately, this type of skin cancer is rarely serious if caught and completely removed promptly. If left untreated, however, it can become life threatening.
What Can I Do to Protect Myself?
With skin cancer, prevention is always the best tactic. If you lead an active lifestyle and spend a lot of time outdoors, it can be especially hard to remember to limit your sun exposure and adequately protect your skin. However, it is crucial that you do, as even a moderate amount of sun exposure each day can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer. Always wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30, preferably higher, and reapply frequently, at least every two hours or after swimming. Wear a large brimmed hat and long-sleeved shirts if possible. Examine your body head to toe once a month to check for changes or abnormal growths, bumps, or patches, and be sure to see your physician annually for a skin examination.
If you have questions about skin cancer, or have a growth you would like examined, contact Dr. Hetzler for a professional evaluation.